China’s exodus of people and capital prompts controls to further curtail basic freedoms

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Dynamic Zero-COVID policy aims to contain the spread of the virus by locking down entire cities for indefinite periods. Growing outrage from people quarantined in Shanghai, Beijing and beyond has sparked a popular trend of considering moving overseas. The internet buzzword used to describe this trend is “Run Xue”. But rather than watering down its unpopular policy, the CCP decided to double down on using “Mongoose Hunt 2022”, a policy intended to tighten controls at China’s borders and thus prevent the flight of talent and capital.

After the CCP’s lockdown of Shanghai, residents sought ways to reach consensus safely around people’s desperation and aversion to China’s zero COVID policy. To voice their concerns without fear of internet censorship in China, locals coined the term Run Xue. This term combines the English word run with the Chinese word Xue which means knowledge or wisdom. The hidden meaning of Run Xue suggests that if you have the means to flee or emigrate from China, it would be wise to do so.

Sensing resistance to China’s Zero-COVID policy and how it might tempt people to leave, Xu Ganlu, vice minister of the Ministry of Public Security and director of the National Immigration Administration, deployed the “Operation Mongoose Hunting – 2022” on March 1. He said the enhanced operation would establish a network of land, sea and air controls to crack down on “illegal” entry and exit activities.

At a meeting on May 10, Xu Ganlu said the latest strict border control policy has been rolled out in accordance with the policy of “Dynamic Zero-COVID”, laid down by General Secretary Xi Jinping at a meeting of the May 5 of the Political Bureau Standing Committee, and would be used to prepare for the 20th CPC National Congress.

The operation’s reference to the rare mongoose was somewhat strategic since this animal is known to be a natural enemy of snakes. Mongoose Hunt is a metaphor for how the CCP combats illegal entry and exit activities organized by so-called Snakehead organizations. These are gangs that the CCP hunts to prevent their trafficking of people out of China.

However, the recent experiences of some Chinese citizens indicate that the CCP authorities are using this action to narrow the country’s gates and target people who want to leave China.

More controls to restrict emigration

Recently, Chinese citizens revealed online and to foreign media how the authorities had destroyed their passports and foreign permanent residence cards. This happened when people tried to leave China via Shanghai, Guangzhou and Dalian airports.

When these reports began to surface, Internet censors quickly took them down and the CCP’s official media began to crush these “rumors.” The official news included statements from airport staff and immigration officials denying there was an effort to stop people leaving China.

The CCP’s intense efforts to manipulate news, dispel rumors, and silence people on the Internet, combined with a new policy requiring Chinese citizens “not to leave the country unless necessary,” have not deterred people from want to move abroad. Instead, the undercurrent of Run Xue in China has opened the eyes of people who are now feeling the chill associated with the country’s impending shutdown.

China’s emphasis on “no exit unless necessary” began in July 2021 when China’s National Immigration Bureau issued a notice stating that “ordinary passports and other entry/exit documents will not be not issued for non-essential and non-urgent reasons”.

An explanation of the terms ‘non-essential’ and ‘non-emergency’ was provided to US media outlet Radio Free Asia (RFA) by staff at the Bureau of Immigration’s hotline. Non-essential travel includes visits to relatives, which border control officers would “discourage”. Essential or emergency travel was for study abroad, employment, business, medical care, helping to prevent epidemics, or transporting disaster relief supplies.

Beijing Border Control took this explanation one step further. They said Chinese citizens with “necessary reasons” to travel must present their documents and disclose their reasons for wanting to leave the country. Their authorization to leave would depend on the situation and a decision would be made on the spot. So even if someone gives a good reason to leave, a border control officer could block their journey without asking questions.

Emigration and Epidemic: Used to Strengthen the Security of the CCP Regime and Reduce Basic Freedoms

In April, China’s popular Internet platforms revealed an emerging trend among people wishing to emigrate or travel outside the country. Baidu, China’s Google-like search engine, reported a 400-fold increase in the use of “emigration” as a search keyword. WeChat, a social media app, made this same observation. Tencent, a huge media company, said on April 3 that the overall search index for emigrants jumped 440% and related video sources rose 1,455%.

Baidu data indicates that the main emigration searches took place in Shanghai, Jiangsu Province, Guangdong Province and Beijing. In fact, locked-down Shanghai has topped the list of “emigration” searches for the past two months.

The South China Morning Post recently reported that the profits of an emigration law firm in Beijing have doubled since late March. The company specializes in overseas education and emigration consulting and most of the clients in this recent push were tech professionals, not just high net worth individuals.

Lawyers at the firm said its most recent clients are interested in obtaining the US EB-1 visa, which is typically issued to professionals in science, business, sports and the arts. Prior to April, customers most often inquired about the U.S. EB-5 visa, which is typically used by foreign investors.

Public data on Chinese emigration also suggests that the most popular destinations identified by tech professionals were countries known for their advanced technology, including Europe, the United States and emerging countries in South Asia. South East.

This has raised concerns about the depletion of the Chinese talent pool and the potential need for the CCP to tighten border controls.

Besides emigration, the CCP is also concerned about China’s declining foreign exchange reserves. The country’s economic slowdown and lack of exports due to epidemic controls have led to a shortage of foreign exchange reserves. Citizens leaving China will have to exchange yuan for a large amount of foreign currency. Thus, by preventing people from leaving China, the authorities greatly reduce the demand for foreign currency.

Some of the Chinese commentators speculated on another fear besides a potential talent ‘race’ and loss of capital. They suggest that the totalitarian CCP could use the outbreak to achieve total social control, referring to its regime’s security considerations.

Wang Longmeng, a French commentator, told RFA that the Chinese government had already achieved full social control using the need for “epidemic restraint”.

In the early years, the CCP used national security as an excuse to impose border controls on dissidents. Later, they strictly controlled the issuance of passports to Uyghurs and Tibetans. The net result is that the Chinese people are likely to lose more of their basic freedoms.

According to Wang, “you can imagine where a China that is isolated, closed off from the civilized world and cut off from information, will go. Either the public will become mindless slaves or there will be a massive protest for basic freedoms. ”


James V. Hayes